8 Reasons to Drive to Corpus Christi

From sandy Gulf shores to all things Selena.

Landlocked cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin may have plenty of freshwater and manmade swimming spots, but no lake or river can compare to the versatility and vastness of the Texas coastline. Corpus Christi is one major coastal city that lives up to its reputation as a premiere destination for beaching, fishing, and all things fun in the sun. Throw in a plethora of museums, historical sites, and bars and restaurants, and it’s tough to get bored in this sparkling city by the sea. Without further ado, here’s eight standout reasons to make the drive to Corpus Christi.

South Padre Island | Hundley Photography/Shutterstock

Hit the beach, duh

The lengthy Texas Gulf Coast is home to endless sandy shores, and Corpus Christi is home to some of the state’s most popular. Top destinations include Mustang Island State Park, Whitecap Beach, and Padre Island National Seashore, which spans about 70 miles of breezy coastline. Whether you’re building elaborate sandcastles, wading into the water, or fishing off a jetty, Corpus has you covered. 

Mustang Island State Park stands out for its long stretch of family-friendly beaches complete with nearly 100 designated campsites, half of which come equipped with water and electricity for as low as $20 a night. Situated just across Corpus Christi Bay, the island has a perfect blend of waves and wildlife, making it a great location for outdoorsy folks, surfers, and bird watchers alike.

Mirador de la Flor
Mirador de la Flor | Flickr/Terry Ross

Do “anything for Selenas” at the Tejano icon’s museum and memorial

At the height of her career, the late superstar Selena Quintanilla was making history as one of the most successful female artists to ever break into the mainstream Tejano music charts. The uber-talented superstore met her tragic fate in 1995, but her legacy lives on and is widely celebrated across Corpus Christi, her home and final resting place. 

The Selena Museum, owned and operated by Selena’s father Abraham Quintanilla, includes a close look at what made the singer so iconic. The museum is home to a number of Selena’s personal effects, including a collection of her legendary stage outfits, as well as authentic memorabilia like numerous awards and plaques received both in life and posthumously. 

Another popular Selena site is the Mirador de la Flor, a memorial statue featuring the late star’s likeness. Located near the Corpus Christi bayfront seawall, the memorial includes Paseo De La Flor, a walkway leading down to the water.

Embark on an educational journey at the Museum of Science and History

For curious-minded travelers, The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History serves as a fun, immersive environment fit for visitors of all ages. Exhibits feature traditional dioramas as well as interactive activities like in the H-E-B  Science Center, which is designed for ages three and older and has all sorts of indoor and outdoor play and educational areas covering topics like cellular anatomy and the function of atoms. Its newest exhibit, “Prehistoric Predators and Prey,” focuses on extinct creatures of land, air and sea, including the gigantic—and thankfully long gone—ocean-dwelling megalodon.

Texas State Aquarium
Texas State Aquarium

Become an expert on all things aquatic at the Texas State Aquarium

There’s no shortage of sea life on display at the Texas State Aquarium. Located next to bustling North Beach, this aquarium counts 18 different exhibits spanning enormous fish tanks full of scaly swimmers from around the world alongside a selection of recreated habitats like Swamp Tales, which features wetlands species, and Tortuga Cay, home to a group of happy sea turtles. Head over to Dolphin Bay to see daily presentations from dolphins-in-residence Kai, Shadow, Liko, and Schooner, or if you prefer to observe them on their down time, visit the bay’s underwater observation deck to get an in-depth look at these bottlenoses frolicking beneath the waves.

Laurens Hoddenbagh/Shutterstock

Climb aboard the historic USS Lexington 

You don’t have to be a military buff to be awed by the USS Lexington, a WWII-era aircraft carrier that’s grown into a staple destination for out-of-towners passing through Corpus. The carrier became a permanent fixture off the North Beach shore in 1992, and since completing its transition into a museum, it’s been visited by over 8 million people. Explore the ship on your own or take a guided tour to get a full idea of the massive vessel’s historical significance. If you’re into the more ooky-spooky aspects of visiting a real life relic, the museum also offers ghost tours covering the accounts of paranormal activity reportedly observed on and below deck.

CrackerClips Stock Media/Shutterstock

Get cultured at the Art Museum of South Texas

Art enthusiasts will find themselves enthralled by the many offerings at the Art Museum of South Texas, an affiliate of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The museum itself boasts an aesthetically pleasing exterior, from well manicured grounds to a pyramid-topped roof, but the visuals don't stop there. It’s easy to spend an afternoon wandering the various galleries littered with countless classic and contemporary works. Current exhibitions include the permanent Spanish colonial gallery and the more recently installed Luster, a selection of hyperrealistic paintings of automobiles. For the kiddos, make sure to stop into the Artcade, an interactive space where little ones play, learn, and create their very own masterpieces.

South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center
South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center

Become acquainted with the local flora and fauna 

The Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Learning Center is a part of the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department, and while it has all the markings of a standard park, peaceful green stretches are just the tip of the iceberg here. For starters, there are several miles of trails leading through four different habitats: mesquite thorn scrub, freshwater ponds, wetlands, and an open prairie. Each section hosts a diverse population of vegetation and animal species, including tortoises, insects, and coastal birds, making the preserve an ideal spot for birders and nature-lovers. 

Similarly, the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center holds its own with a unique lineup of plants and wildlife. Among the highlights are an iguana house, an orchid observatory, and a hummingbird garden. 

Lorelei Brewing Company
Lorelei Brewing Company

Bar hop along on the beach

Like most major cities, Corpus Christi is home to a vibrant nightlife teeming with live music venues, dance clubs, cocktail dens, brewpubs, and dives primed and ready to keep the good times rolling for locals and tourists alike. Microbreweries like Lorelei Brewing Co. and Nueces Brewing Co. are excellent places to kick off the night, and if hitting the club is more your jam, head over to the Bay Area and find a spot to shake that moneymaker within walking distance of the beach. Our picks? Club Rio and Pure offer a two-fer experience fueled by driving hip-hop beats and Tejano jams, Club 54 for DJ and disco ball vibes, and Whiskey River for a boot-stompin’, honkey-tonkin’ helluva time.

If posting up at a single destination is more your thing, Water Street Market has your back. Located just a few blocks from the Corpus Christi Marina, this open-air entertainment hub features a restaurant, oyster bar, sushi room, food truck, AND surf club. Revelers can chow down on fresh seafood, crack open a few cold ones, and see a live band all in the same night at one-stop-party-shop.

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Polly Anna Rocha is a contributor for Thrillist.